SAN JOSE -- After tending twine in the Sharks' first victory of the regular season last Thursday in Chicago, many thought Aaron Dell might get the nod to start a second straight game. From the looks of things at Saturday's morning skate, however, de facto starter Martin Jones will get the call instead on Sunday night when San Jose hosts the Calgary Flames.
But the decision to start Dell on Thursday wasn't about sending a message to Jones after four straight losses, Sharks bench boss Peter DeBoer said on Saturday. That decision was about giving his backup goalie more starts.
In the long-run, this is something that could greatly benefit the Sharks' goaltending situation.
"It isn't any kind of indictment on Martin Jones," DeBoer insisted when asked about choosing to start Dell against the Blackhawks. "I kind of decided over the summer that I wanted to play Deller more."
While both Jones and Dell faced a downturn in performance through their 2018-19 campaigns and ended the regular season with goals-against averages under .900, Dell was the one who spent most of the time sitting on the sidelines. So the head coach gave his back-up some offseason homework ahead of the 2019-20 season so that, hopefully, wouldn't happen again.
Dell then showed off that hard work in his start against the Blackhawks, making huge saves that kept Chicago from running up the scoreboard early in the contest. In the final minute of play, it was Dell's insane saves that allowed San Jose to hang on for their first win on the regular season.
"I wanted to play him more last year, but he didn't allow me that opportunity to," DeBoer admitted. "So I told him over the summer that 'I want to get you in more games than I did last year. I'm going to give you the opportunity early to play some more, but you have to help me and play well when you get in there.' And I think he did that."
Getting better performances out of Dell can ultimately help Jones out as well. Jones plays some of his best hockey when the stakes are higher and could easily get a boost from his backup having a more reputable season. And since the two netminders have built a solid working relationship, the whole team can benefit.
"We've had a good relationship over the last few years so it's been good for our team, " Jones said. "We're on the same team here. We all want the same thing, we all want to win."
Now, if the defense in front of both Jones and Dell can tighten up, the Sharks will really be in good shape.
"We've started to help our goaltenders, but our game in front of those guys isn't where it needs to be yet either," DeBoer said.
"I think slowly we've gotten a little bit better every game."